I was at my favorite sushi restaurant, Shio, when I first saw gyoza listed on a menu. I consider myself a creature of habit when ordering food at a restaurant, so getting something that was not sushi was a BIG deal for me. Curiosity got the best of me, and I decided to give gyoza a try. Needless to say, I was not disappointed. But what is gyoza, exactly? Here's everything you should know about this tasty dish before you order it.

What is Gyoza?

Dictionary.com defines gyoza as a Japanese dish consisting of dumplings that have been stuffed with ground meat and vegetables. Although "dumpling" is part of the definition, consider gyoza to be a step above your average American dumpling.

The Japanese actually based gyoza off of Chinese potstickers. Japanese soldiers first had potstickers during World War II while in Manchuria, in Northern China. Once home, they wanted to recreate the delicious dumplings they had eaten in China. 

One of the main differences between gyoza and potstickers is that gyoza tend to be smaller with thinner skin. This allows for a crispier texture and bite. Some say gyoza are known to go heavy on the garlic, which is great for garlic lovers. 

Types of Gyoza

spring rolls, sweet, pastry, dumpling, bread, gyoza
Bailey Bromm

Pan Fried (Yaki Gyoza) — This is by far the most common way I have seen gyoza offered on a menu. They're pan fried in a hot skillet with a mixture of cornstarch and water. The water and cornstarch mixture makes the gyoza soft and juicy, while at the same time creating a crispy bottom.

Boiled (Sui Gyoza) — These are boiled gyoza that are sometimes served in a light broth. They're less common and found more at Chinese restaurants. 

Deep Fried (Age Gyoza) — These bad boys are crispy and deep fried. You'll be hard pressed to find these anywhere but in a Chinese restaurant or a specialty gyoza restaurant. 

Personally, I believed pan fried is the way to go because the outside gets nice and crispy but still has a slight doughy texture. For vegetarian options, there's gyoza without meat, filled with cabbage and mushrooms.

Gyoza Sauce

fish, soy, vegetable, chicken, sauce, tofu
Benjamin Martin

The best part about gyoza is the sauce that comes with them (IMO). Gyoza may come with a ponzu sauce, or other homemade sauces consisting of rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, and spices. Ponzu is a classic Japanese citrus sauce that can be used without the addition of soy sauce yet it still has a strong umami flavor. Umami is the fifth basic taste distinguishable on the human tongue.

This thin yet potent sauce is extremely flavorful. The Gyoza is usually accompanied by a bed of shredded cabbage, pickled ginger, and carrots. I recommend dipping any leftover veggies into the amazing ponzu.

When Should You Eat Gyoza?

Gyoza is often served as a main course at family meals, or "okazu," which translates to a side meal accompanying rice. It is also a popular side dish or appetizer at ramen noodle shops, as well as some izakaya (a bar or pub). I personally always order gyoza as an appetizer before I order sushi. You can't really go wrong here, I say eat gyoza whenever you want because there's no time like the present to be eat something so delicious. 

Next time you see gyoza on a menu, you'll know just about everything there is to know about these fabulous little bundles of dough. Order a few to share with friends before digging into your main meal.